United Way and Social Equity Council Announce $1.8MM in Grants

Monday, January 29, 2024

Danbury, CT. (November 9, 2023) — United Way of Coastal and Western Connecticut (UWCWC) and the Connecticut Social Equity Council (SEC) announced grant funding for 57 non-profit projects in Bridgeport and Stamford that uplift community and strengthen families disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs.

UWCWC served as a third-partner grant maker for the Community Reinvestment Grant Pilot by the state’s Social Equity Council, which aims to reinvest state cannabis revenue back into affected communities. Funds of $900K were allocated to each community to support projects in two focus areas: (1) youth education and recreation, and (2) re-entry and re-integration of formerly-incarcerated individuals and their families.

“We are honored to partner with the SEC to help support community members who have been marginalized for too long. With these grants, we are able to support initiatives that expand enrichment programming for our youth, support residents in re-entry, and prepare our workforce for the future,” said Isabel Almeida, UWCWC President and CEO.

According to Ginne-Ray Clay, SEC Executive Director, “We are excited to give back to communities long-affected by the failed War on Drugs. This grant funding pilot program is intended to have a direct and immediate benefit to impacted communities and their residents who are most vulnerable-- our youth who are really struggling right now, and the reentry population who have probably been harmed the most. Providing financial support to programs that uplift and serve affected communities will help alleviate some of the burden of those who have been carrying the weight of the devastating impacts of this war. We look forward to seeing the results of this funding.”

The need for this community funding was evident in the sheer number and size of grant applications. Eighty-four organizations submitted requests totaling over $7.5M—over four times the available funding.

According to Ashley Gaudiano, UWCWC Senior Vice President of Community Impact, “The applications were innovative and thoughtful, and the selection process was difficult due to the limited funds available.” Gaudiano added that the UWCWC is proud of the process for awarding grants—which was intentionally community-focused and community-led. “Grantee selections were made by committees of community members and leaders in each city. These members understand the needs of residents, represent a range of expertise and lived experience, and were trained in practices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

Yolande Ford, UWCWC’s Senior Director of Equity and Culture, added, “The inclusion and leadership of community members is essential in equitable grantmaking. Ultimately, the goal is to empower communities to take ownership of their own development and become self-sufficient, which this opportunity from the SEC has begun to provide.”

Examples of projects receiving funding include:


  • McGivney Community Center’s Afterschool Program that provides programming to address poverty’s negative impact on the learning and social-emotional skills of area youth.
  • RISE (Restore, Inspire, Support and Encourage), reentry support for women post-incarceration, which includes skill-building in sobriety, financial literacy, wellness, and heathy relationships.


  • Project Music’s Sistema Scholars Program, which uses music to address academic, social, and emotional needs of BIPOC students in grades 2-12.
  • Domus Kids’ “Invictus Re-Entry Program” that provides youth ages 17-26 returning from prison have the with skills and support to reintegrate into society and remain arrest free.

According to Ford, the impact of the SEC grant’s funding addresses needs of today and has ripple effects that reach far into the future. “Reinvesting in communities that have historically been negatively affected by state and federal-sanctioned policies is a critical and transformative opportunity. This type of reinvestment can have a profound impact on addressing systemic inequities, promoting social justice, and fostering positive change to rectify past injustices.

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